Every day — even in the midst of a global pandemic — men and women known as “canners” spend hours trawling city streets for empty bottles and cans. Many bring their containers to redemption centers, where they sell their wares for five cents apiece. In turn, redemption centers sell recyclables at a profit to beverage distribution companies, which must purchase them under local laws like New York’s Bottle Bill.
What motivates these workers? In a recently published study, I find that canners are motivated primarily by the money they make from bottle and can redemption, and by work conditions like job autonomy and the ability to work without papers.
On average, Muslim women work for pay less than other women around the world, but until recently, we did not know if this was also true in the United States. A study I published recently answers this question and digs into which Muslim women might be less engaged in paid work outside the home and why. I find that only visibly Muslim women, those who wear the hijab, have significantly lower employment than non-Muslim women.
Why should we care about Muslim women’s employment?
Demographers, sociologists, and economists track women’s employment, because participation in the labor force has been linked to women’s empowerment both individually and across societies. Paid work may have many downsides—especially when juggled with a disproportionate amount of care work—but in capitalist economies, it is a key component of financial independence, which has been shown to impact wellbeing. As a result, we often think of women’s employment as an indicator not just of women’s individual outcomes, but also of overall gender inequality in a society. For example, Paula England argues that the plateau in women’s entry into the labor force in the United States in the 1990s and 2010s is evidence that the gender revolution has stalled.